Eagles’ quiet leader — Giannotti sets the tone

Keaton Giannotti isn’t the type to yell and scream in the huddle. Even when things don’t go according to plan, you’re unlikely to see the Santa Fe Christian quarterback get in a teammate’s face.

“I’ve always just kind of been taught that actions speak louder than words,” Giannotti said. “Whenever I saw somebody working as hard as they could, that always made me respect them, so I just kind of built off that and applied that to how I work and how I lead.”

Judging by the results, his Eagles teammates have followed.

Perennial small-school power SFC is off to its best start in years. Coming off a midseason bye, the Eagles are 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 211-68.

SFC coach Nick Ruscetta describes Giannotti as a blue-collar player who sets the tone for his team with his attitude, work ethic and unselfishness.

He said Giannotti rarely comes off the field, playing strong safety on defense, and plays through bumps and bruises and other nagging injuries without complaints.

“He just does whatever we ask him to do,” Ruscetta said. “He’ll block if we need him to.”

The Eagles are hoping Giannotti’s leadership will help them return to an era of dominance. SFC earlier this decade won four San Diego Section titles in five appearances.

“We’ve played some very good teams, and we’re 5-0.” Ruscetta said. “He’s a big part of that.”

Giannotti runs a complicated Delaware wing-T offense geared toward creating gobs of open space for running backs by confusing opposing defenses with carefully orchestrated misdirection plays.

He has attempted just 18 passes for the season, completing 14 of them for 168 yards and five touchdowns. He’s contributed even more running the ball, rushing for 293 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries.

He is the team’s second-leading rusher behind standout Sam Hoekstra, who’s rushed for 639 yards and six touchdowns on 40 carries.

“It might sound boring because we don’t pass a lot and we just hand off, but it’s really fun,” Giannotti said of his role quarterbacking a team that’s thrown the ball fewer times halfway through the season than many teams have in a half of a game.

“It’s fun disguising plays and making the defense play slower than our offense,” Giannotti said. “Even though I don’t get to pass, I still get to run a lot, and that’s fun.”

Giannotti’s versatility has been a valuable asset, too. He’s also the Eagles punter, averaging 27 yards on three kicks, and averages 2.4 tackles playing strong safety.

Giannotti is also a lacrosse standout, excelling in one of the school’s most competitive programs. (The Eagles have already sent four players to Div. I colleges since the program’s inception in 2005.)

“I grew up playing basketball and soccer, and I just kind of like that fast pace, so when I play lacrosse, it brings me back to my old roots,” Giannotti said.

But Giannotti plans to play football in college, following what he says is his true passion.

His relative lack of size at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds makes him a long shot to play quarterback in college, and Giannotti himself acknowledged his skill-set is more suited toward playing slot receiver or defensive back in college.

He believes his versatility could be his collegiate football calling card.

“I think I’m mainly getting looked at as an athlete,” Giannotti said. “I’m not just tied down to one position, so I think that probably makes my recruiting a little bit easier.”

Ruscetta said he believes Giannotti could make an impact at a Div. II or Ivy League school, noting his stellar academics. Giannotti has a 3.7 GPA.

He cited Giannotti’s aptitude, quickness, work ethic and his nose for the ball among the attributes that are sure to attract college scouts.

“He could play somewhere at that level for sure,” Ruscetta said.


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